Walkoff At The Reese: Blue Raiders Sneak By The Governors In The Ninth

Trent Seibert fires downhill to put one by the Austin Peay batter. (Will Carter / Sports Editor)

Story by Will Carter / Sports Editor

Dramatics have become a common theme with Middle Tennessee this season as they slipped by Austin Peay in the ninth inning due to a wild pitch that allowed senior Brian Dillingham to fly into home for the game-winning run; a finish that was preceded by the Blue Raiders’ extra innings win at Auburn on Sunday. 

“I’d like for them to do it in a different fashion sometimes, but they get it done,” head coach Jim Toman said jokingly.  “As long as you have that fight and you’re not quitting, that’s all I’m looking for right now.”

The 7-6 win for Middle Tennessee (7-10) looked bleak until the seventh inning when sophomore Wyatt Morgan sent a two-run blast way beyond the right field wall of Reese Smith Jr. Field. It was the spark they needed that built up to their victory over Austin Peay (7-11) in the final inning.

“Wyatt came in with the score 6-3, and he hit that bomb,” freshman pitcher James Sells said. “It was every bit of 400 feet. We had momentum going immediately after that.” 

After Jackson Galloway was beaned to start the ninth inning and advanced on a wild pitch, Dillingham singled on a bunt to move him one base closer to home. Two at-bats later, third baseman Brett Coker singled to tie the game at six runs apiece. Nathan Sanders stepped to the plate with the bases loaded after Nick Jones was walked. He saw the first pitch, and waved Dillingham home as it sailed to the backstop giving them the win. 

While the win was exciting, it was more meaningful than anything for the Blue Raiders.

“We attended Briggs Rutters’ mom’s funeral today, so that was for him and his family,” Toman said. “He actually showed up here in the dugout, and that shows what type of teammate he is. We’re very fortunate to get that win. I’m really happy for Briggsy that he could come out here with his teammates after the last couple weeks. He loves us.”

Emotions were high, and Middle Tennessee fought for every positive moment down the stretch. One of those was Sells’ relief performance that held the Governors at bay to give his team life. 

Sells (1-1) was awarded the win for his efforts after replacing Dustin Sprong in the seventh inning. Coming into the game down 6-3, he tossed 3.0 hitless and scoreless innings while adding three strikeouts and one walk. 

“I came in, and I just had to keep us in the game,” Sells said. “I had all my stuff working, so I was able to get some good pitches and get guys out. We were ready to win. Once we got some runners on, we knew we were gonna make something happen.” 

Austin Peay gave Middle Tennessee starter Trent Seibert trouble early on in their matchup with a two-run homer in the first inning. The Governors touched Seibert up for three more runs in the next three innings, and his day was over after four innings with six hits, five earned runs, three walks, and five strikeouts. 

Dustin Sprong replaced Seibert for his second relief appearance in three games. He pitched two innings while giving up one run on six hits. 

Middle Tennessee’s win over Austin Peay was the last non-conference game before the Blue Raiders welcome Old Dominion this weekend to kickoff conference play. The Monarchs (14-1) have won their 11 last games, but have only been on the road for one game so far. 

“Old Dominion is really good, but our guys are going to be loose,” Toman said. “That’s a good thing. We’re gonna fight, scratch and claw.”

The first game of the weekend series takes place on Friday with first pitch set for 6 p.m. 

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